maggie1jpgI was born and grew up in Northumberland, an area with a past rich in battle, lore and legend – a perfect background for an author of Fantasy. I was born with a rare heart condition, and as my physical activities were very limited during my childhood, I turned to books for solace, adventure and entertainment, constructing rich worlds of imagination that have stood me in very good stead in my later career. When the other kids were out riding bikes and climbing trees, I was off sailing with the Swallows and Amazons (Nancy was very much my favourite) or winning gymkhanas with Jill and her ponies. Even back then I was blessed with a vivid imagination. Walking to school I would, in my mind, be riding my pony or, when I got into reading Arthur Ransome, sailing my boat. Imagine my mother’s dismay when the wind was against us, and I used to make her tack back and forth across the pavement. (Much to her credit, she did it, too!)

My other great love, which I inherited from my Dad, was animals. As a child I had a huge collection of plastic animals that I’d play with for hours on end, and a whole collection of fluffy stuffed creatures. I couldn’t be bothered with dolls – I was given a doll’s house, and I promptly evicted the dolls and moved the toy animals in (according to my husband, wanting to fill the house with animals is a trait that has lasted to this day!)

I came across my first Fantasy at school, at the age of eight, when a student teacher (she was called Miss Nicholls, and she must have made a huge impression on me, for me to remember her name after so many years) read us ‘The Silver Chair’. All these years later I still remember being blown away by the idea that it was possible to invent a whole new world, where everything could be so different from the world I knew. I rushed off to my local library and zoomed my way through the rest of the Narnia books, then went on to ‘The Hobbit’ – and that was how my love of Fantasy got started.

From the very beginning I was intrigued by the limitless scope that the genre provides. You want armed conflict? It can be there in Fantasy, from great wars and battles right down to duels and bar-room brawls. You want hatred or personal conflict based on envy, prejudice, greed or any other destructive emotion? You want loyalty, love and passion? It can all be there. You want magic and enchantment? No problem! Detective work? Horror? Ghosts? Absolutely! You want to make serious points, on religion or politics, or on a bigger scale, the way that mankind is destroying the planet? If you do it right you can slide these things in without bludgeoning the reader with your viewpoints. To me there is only one cardinal rule in Fantasy: the world a writer creates must, absolutely must, have its own laws and structure, its own physics and metaphysics, its own history and geography – and the writer must always stay within that structure. Apart from that, the possibilities are endless. That’s what makes Fantasy such tremendous fun – both to read and to write.

As I grew up, my health vastly improved by surgery, I qualified as a teacher, and went on to work as an advisor in the Durham reading and Language Resources Centre. I also organised children’s book fairs and became a regular reviewer on the BBC Radio Newcastle programme ‘Children and Books’. It was clearly fate. Whatever I did in life, it always brought me back to books. Even when I was at Grammar School I was best in English, and my wonderful teacher, Doreen Dixon, always said I’d be a writer and encouraged me in every way – which was just as well because, during a period of my life over which I’d rather draw a veil, I was forced to earn a living by being the worst legal secretary in the world. I notice that on her website, Nora Roberts reckons she was the worst legal secretary ever – well, Nora, I’m throwing down the gauntlet! Strange coincidence though, isn’t it?

Miss Dixon’s prediction came true some years later when, married to Eric Furey and living in the wilds of Teesdale, I found myself out of work – I think they got sick of me continually correcting their grammar! I always knew I’d write a book one day. Ideas had been simmering in my mind for years – and suddenly, the time had come. I knew I could do this – I had never been so certain about anything in my life. Eric was a hero, supporting us both while I wrote Aurian – and the rest is history.

Nowadays, I live in Ireland with Eric, my two beautiful Ragdoll cats Merlin and Sunshine, and two tortoises, Eddie and Sparkle. In the last few years my writing career has been interrupted by long periods of ill-health and severe pain, but I’m still writing, and hopefully always will!

eddie and sparkle